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Get your hands dirty: Your guide to gardening in the Tampa Bay area

No green thumb necessary, we’ve got you covered for success with plant ideas, classes, and garden clubs aplenty.

A woman wearing a sun hat and athletic clothes is crouched down tending to ferns in a garden, surrounded by grass and trees.

This could be you in no time.

Photo via Pexels

Is anyone else absolutely obsessed with all things gardening these days?

But let’s be real, keeping plants and flowers alive in the steamy Florida sun can be a beast with flip-flopping temps, cold fronts, heavy rain, and hurricanes. We’re here to help.

“What, like it’s hard?”

The first trick is using the US Department of Agriculture’s Plant Hardiness Zone Map, which was updated last year for the first time in a decade. The map helps you pick the perennial plants that will do the best in your area.

The US is placed into zones based on the area’s average annual extreme minimum winter temperature, according to the USDA. Check the map to find your exact home address’ zone.

Bonus: NPR Life Kit breaks down the changes to the hardiness zone map in this episode.

The closeup of the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map shows the Tampa Bay area falls between the 10a and 10b zones.

Use the map to figure out where your yard lies.

Screenshot via USDA

What zone are we in?

Depending on your slice of Tampa Bay, you could fall into a different zone — think coastal areas vs. suburbs.

  • Tampa falls under zone 10a, meaning that area sees lows between 30 and 35°F.
  • The bulk of St. Pete addresses fall under zone 10a, while the more coastal areas fall under zone 10b, which means these zones could see lows between 35 and 40°F.

What kinds of plants should I buy?

  • Don’t want to mess with frequent watering? The safest bet is selecting native plants that do well with less rainfall + hot sunshine. The Florida Native Plant Society recommends folks in the West Central region (hey, that’s us) plant varieties like sunshine mimosas, black-eyed Susans, and firebushes. Check out the full pamphlet for tips on creating different types of gardens — from sunny to shady — in our slice of the Gulf Coast.
  • While you’re wandering the aisles at Lowe’s or your local nursery, make sure to check each plant’s tag for its hardiness zone, plus its ideal sunlight needs to make sure it works for your yard.

Garden Clubs

Gardening can be a solo activity, but it’s also a fabulous way to meet new people in your area — and score those hyper-local tips from TBAY green thumbs.

  • Located right on Bayshore Boulevard, the Tampa Garden Club offers multiple membership options. The club hosts nine different circles based on interests and offers member-at-large options.
  • Beyond membership, the St. Pete Garden Club hosts both monthly and annual events from flower shows and social hours to floral design sessions.

Keep learning

  • Make use of your local resources. The UF/IFAS Extension of Hillsborough County teaches courses on vegetable gardening + tons of other classes focused on our area’s climate.
  • Pick up new plants, supplies, and growing tips at Kerby’s Nursery. The local grower offers tons of online support like Teaching Thursdays videos, and planting + watering tips.
  • More into succulents and indoor gardening? Cactus Moon Market hosts Succulent Box Saturdays every third Saturday of the month, where you can paint your own box + learn how to care for your new plant friends.

Let’s make a plan

  • Set yourself up for green-hued success by starting with a plan. Pick up a planner to log your varieties, map out your planting beds, and just take notes. Don’t be discouraged, keeping notes of the failures will help you prep for the next growing season.
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